Spring Break

March 24, 2011 | 4:03 pm

Spring break! Ah, a breath of fresh air and a change in our routine. I need spring break as much as the students and teachers. Instead of going south we head north to spend a week helping my dad on the farm. I admit I would enjoy the 80 degree weather the south promises! It’s 30 degrees today and I’m wearing my winter coat again. Anyone can experience a sunny beach and the ocean but not everyone can experience a week of farming fun.

The girls are having a blast. My oldest, Bailey, came in to announce she was having the best day EVER!! It makes my heart smile knowing the girls are creating childhood memories that will continue to bring them joy.

It is calving season and we get to witness life from the beginning; the first breath, the tender lick of a momma cow, wobbly legs, and the first nourishment. Nature is amazing and breathtaking! Throughout the day we “go check cows” which means we saddle up the John Deere gator (no horses on this farm) and drive through the pasture looking for changes in the cattle. As we drive, Bailey, challenges me to hit every cow patty (cow manure) in the pasture. Not a hard task considering the pasture is covered in patties. Some might consider this gross but on the farm, manure is as common as dust in your house.

Manure may be stinky but it is considered a valuable source of nutrients. I mix fresh manure in my compost pile. During the decaying process the manure is broken down and combined with all of the other material in the compost. This combination allows us to return nutrients taken from the soil back to the soil. In addition to nutrients, adding compost to your garden will build soil structure and improve drainage.

Not everyone has access to manure or has the desire to compost. Thankfully, we can purchase different kinds of compost at garden centers. I purchase my compost by the truck load at a local horse stable. Good compost should be dark brown, fluffy, crumby and have an earthy odor. If it smells of ammonia it’s not ready for your garden.

The best time to amend your garden soil with compost is in the fall or spring before you begin planting. Compost will give your veggies a nutrient boost but it may not be enough nutriention for your plants. Generally compost has low nutrient value and those nutrients are slowly released. Additional fertilizers may be needed to maximize plant growth.

Next week, when I have recovered from spring break, I will incorporate about three inches of compost to each garden bed. Improving soil is the first step to a productive garden season.